This blog is a place for students to share their stories from the amazing Day1 programs. Look around to get a sense of all the awesome things students are doing as part of their community.

If you would like more info about the programs or would like to request for someone to contact you about Day1, please visit our website at hope.edu/Day1.

Exploring Biology in Watershed: An Engineer’s Story

Moving from the dry desert lands to the great lake state of Michigan was a tough choice.  But coming from a very science-oriented high school, it wasn’t difficult for me to see the immense number of undergraduate research opportunities that were available here at Hope. I initially found out about the Watershed program when I sat down with an admissions representative during my first visit in April 2017. I had seen the web-page prior to visiting, but It wasn’t until then that I could envision myself as part of such an immersive program.

In high school, I was on an engineering path. I was also part of the robotics team all four years and it seemed natural for me to consider engineering programs while searching for schools. But in my senior year, I began to question whether engineering was really the career path for me. Since all my classes were based in engineering and physics, I’d never had the opportunity to explore chemistry or biology. Watershed seemed like the perfect opportunity for me to experience chemistry and biology in a unique fashion instead of taking the standard intro labs. I can definitely tell you I have not regretted my decision to this day.

I spent much of my first semester trying to decide what I wanted to study and major in, thinking more about chemistry and biology rather than engineering. For the first time in my life, I was working with live organisms and aseptic techniques instead of large mechanical parts and electric systems. Watershed also gave me the opportunity to apply research methods and techniques to real-world challenges which made the labs even more enjoyable, although stressful at times. But over time, I realized that I missed being able to work with nuts and bolts. I remember passing by the engineering lab one day, watching the engineering students work on vehicle motors, and wishing I was in there with them. As much as I enjoyed my time growing colonies of E. coli, I missed engineering even more.

Although I realized that engineering had been the right path all along, I do have to thank the Day 1 Watershed program for allowing me to be part of such a unique experience. Watershed not only reaffirmed my passion and love for science but also gave me a whole new perspective of what implications our actions have for the natural world. It was a good chance to step back and get a new perspective. Thank you, Watershed, for a life-changing experience.

Expanding Research Horizons

I knew that I wanted to do research over the summer, but  I had to choose between research in Watershed and applying to a new project.  Watershed has been a very valuable experience to me, but I felt that I wanted to try something new.  I also felt that I should find out if I enjoy Biochemistry, since it is my major. Watershed has helped me obtain a level of comfort in the lab, which has prepared me for Chemistry and Biology lab work.  The program focuses on biological and chemical analyses of microbial communities in the Macatawa Watershed. Because of its interdisciplinary nature, I gained experience in several chemical analyses as well as biological/E. coli testing.   This required me to adapt quickly to different ways of thinking and learning.  I knew next to nothing about microbiology, or how to perform all the chemical/biological testing required for Watershed, but I learned.

My adaptability was further tested when I had the opportunity to research for Dr. Leah Chase. Her research focuses primarily on Biochemistry and Neuroscience, something I knew very little about.  Therefore, researching in this lab required some adjustment. At first, I could hardly understand my own lab partner. Additionally, the project was much more microcosmic in scope than the Watershed program. The project myresearch focuses on, system xc, an antiporter composed of two proteins that moves glutamate out of the cell and cysteine into the cell.  The system is particularly abundant in glial cells, which are essential to the function of the central nervous system.  The biochemical pathway we are studying involves the enzyme AKT, which activates a transporter called xCT.  Abnormalities in this transporter’s activity have been connected to stroke, glioma, schizophrenia, drug addiction/withdrawal, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Choosing a project outside of Day1 allowed me to expand my horizons past what Watershed could offer me and helped me discover that I really do love Biochemistry! I’m still thankful to the Watershed program; While I didn’t want to devote my life to it, the program  broadened my view of research and helped me discover my real passion for research. I think it is always a good idea to try new things, and joining the Chase lab has allowed me to find my passion for Biochemistry.

Returning to Watershed

I initially decided to come to Hope due in part to its immensity of undergraduate research opportunities.  My research experience began with my participation in the Day 1 Watershed project during my first year. This bolstered my confidence, and as soon as I realized that it was possible, I had my heart set on continuing to do research the next summer.  

While applying for a position in one of Hope’s labs, I considered a variety of subjects ranging from analytical chemistry to biochemistry. Eventually, I ended up exactly where I started: the Watershed project. I had become so invested in and passionate about the project that I wanted to build on my first year’s work.

This past summer, an extraordinary number of people worked on different aspects of the Watershed project. Most of the researchers focused on microbiology, computer programming, and geology.  As a chemistry major, I focused more on the chemistry aspects of the project, namely analyzing the concentrations of certain chemicals in the water.

No matter whose lab you are in, summer research is an amazing opportunity to extend your intellectual and social experiences. It’s a great way to keep learning, making connections with your professors, and meeting new friends.


From Macatawa To Eleuthera — Opportunities After Watershed

I wasn’t sure what I was going to do in college, and so I initially had mixed feelings about applying to participate in the Day 1 Watershed program as a freshman.  Looking back now as a junior, though, all I can say is that the value of my involvement with the Day 1 Watershed program has only appreciated with time.  It has opened the door to many new and exciting opportunitiesincluding one in the Bahamas.  

The Day 1 Watershed program engages participants in experiential learning from their first day on campus and encourages us to continue to grab every experiential learning opportunity we can after the first year.   I participated in Hope’s Island Life May-term at the end of my freshman year. Island Life is an amazing course run by the geology department’s Dr. Bodenbender.  It focuses on the sustainability, diversity and geology of the Bahamian island of Eleuthera, and involves a week-long trip to the island in its third and final week to study these concepts hands-on.  Our group also took some time to sightsee, and to assist local biologists with their day-to-day jobs. I can’t enumerate all of our activities, but highlights included seeing the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea simultaneously, catching a stingray by wading after it and staring it down, and going spelunking down to a bed of ancient African soil.  

The main project I undertook was the writing of a miniature field guide manuscript that detailed biological and geological interactions at the various locales we hiked and snorkled through, with species lists as complete as could be assembled given the limited time.  It was the most ambitious piece of science writing I’ve yet composed, and I am now looking to expand upon that experience.  I recently submitted an excerpt of this field guide to the Pierce Cedar Creek Institute in Hastings, Michigan, along with a project proposal to write a far more ambitious field guide manuscript based on their species inventory and conservation efforts.  I don’t know what precisely my future holds, but I know that it will be brighter because of the opportunities and experiences that were made available to me because of the Day 1 Watershed program.

Hands-On Engineering Experience with Day1: EDGE

“This experience has impacted me in many ways, including the sense of being a part of something bigger than myself. I have really enjoyed my opportunity to study and work with an engineering design team in order to solve a problem,” – Ben Staubus, a Day1: EDGE student who just completed his first semester in the EDGE program.

Louise Kenny is a volunteer from Hope Academy of Senior Professions that has been involved in past EDGE research projects. In the beginning of the fall 2017 semester, she met with students to introduce a problem within her line of work and tasked the students with developing a solution. She returned the last week of the semester for individual meetings with the teams of students. These students were excited to demonstrate their prototypes.

Louise is an occupational therapist who works with patients who have varying stages of Alzheimer’s disease. She explains that caretakers are worried about their patient getting out of bed or leaving the home in a disoriented state. The caretaker wants to give the patient the respect and independence they deserve but can become stressed with the uncertainty that the patient may wander off in a confused state. She often finds that caretakers of these patients are suffering themselves because of the stress and constant worry.

The students were tasked with creating a product that could privately alert the caretaker if their patient gets up in the middle of the night or leaves the room, without startling or making the patient feel embarrassed. The only specifics Louise asked the students to consider when creating their design was for it to be portable, easy to understand, and available within a $100 price range. The last request that Louise asked the Day1:EDGE students to consider in their design was how their product would make the patient feel, noting, that the comparable products are emotionally degrading. Currently, many assisted living facilities have chair alarms that sound an alarm when the patient leaves the chair. These alarms can often offend the person, creating a feeling of confinement to that chair.

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“I got to explore the different issues that caregivers have with patients that wander. I used the information I collected and tried to discover different ways to alert caregivers if their patients wander. I’ve had a positive impact and it has given me an opportunity to work hands-on with things I’ve never worked with before,” said a Day1: EDGE student.

Each team of Day1 engineers created a sensor product that could be placed on the bed or the floor that, when triggered by weight, would send a message to the caretaker’s cell phone that their patient could need assistance. In order to make these prototypes, students learned how to build circuits, use sensors, and develop coding between the sensor and the interface that the caregiver would use. The students were able to create a product that would alert the caretaker within five to ten seconds of their patient’s status. One group even created a chair sensor that could be used for any patients that may need to be in a wheelchair.

“The best part of the design project is working with sensors and Arduino. It helped me realize that I’m interested in coding,” said Shelby Harper.

Students spoke with confidence and pride of their hand-crafted solution to Louise’s request. Students spoke of the challenge of learning how to create the correct circuits and learn the proper coding to have a message be sent anytime the sensor was triggered. Louise was grateful when she saw how the students took great care and pride in creating a solution that took into consideration the patient’s emotional well-being above all else.

Louise was pleased during the prototype demonstration with a smile that never left her face. She asked inquisitive questions regarding the troubles the students ran into and how they solved it, their opinions of the class itself, as well as provided feedback that could help the students refine their prototype. She brought up ideas like considering the trip hazards that wires can cause, ensuring that the product is water-proof, and inquiring about a weight sensitivity to help avoid any miss-fires that house pets may cause.

Andie Alsgaard summed up her Day1: EDGE experience as follows: “I got the privilege of meeting with an actual client who had a real-world issue. She explained her problem and, as small groups, we got to solve the problem. This experience has shown me a real-life example of what engineering is and what it could look like in the future. Working in small, randomly assigned team has allowed me to meet new people and learn how to work well in groups.”

Research after Day1 Watershed?

Hope College junior Ashley Trojniak of Sterling Heights won the “Outstanding Student Poster Award” in the COLL Student Poster Contest, held during the Aug. 20–24 National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS). She was the only undergraduate selected for an award and was chosen from among about 150 presenters, most of whom were graduate students.

Read more…

Immersed in the Sciences from Day1


Photo: Day1 Watershed

For many people, coming to college is an anxiety-ridden time. Like many freshmen, I had what felt like a million worries about starting college. What would my major be? Would I do well in my classes? How and where would I find friends? After my first week of Watershed, almost all those worries had dissipated. I met ten other students who had similar interests to me, most of whom I am still very close to. I gained valuable knowledge and experience through hands-on learning and research. I also got to know my two advisers, who also turned into some of the most influential professors I have had so far.

Photo: Dr. Aaron Best

One of the most valuable parts of the Day1 program was the research experience. Because the Watershed project has real-world applications and consequences, we took part in real applications of the scientific method. I had a great experience coming up with research questions and hypotheses, as well as sampling in the field, analyzing samples via wet lab techniques, researching previously performed experiments, and learning how to use computer programming to draw conclusions from data. Since I have put those skills on my résumé, they have already helped me earn a summer research job.

The Day1 program has been extremely valuable to me on a social basis as well as professionally. All students in the Watershed group as well as many students in the Phage group live in Lichty Hall, one of the smallest dorms on campus. Almost everyone in Lichty is a science major, which creates a unique atmosphere. On any given night, there are a ton of people in the basement or lounge doing homework, studying, or just goofing off. Although it is probably not the best place to find quiet time, you can always find someone else studying for the same test or doing the same homework if you need help. I am so grateful to have found the unique Lichty community and would recommend it to anyone looking for a tight-knit community and friend group.

Author: Eleda Plouch

Life in Lichty Hall

When I first enrolled in a Day1 program I was excited about the opportunity to take part in a real-world research project. I had not put much thought into the idea of what it meant to be part of a ‘living-learning community’, however, now that I have completed my freshmen year I have discovered what it really means to be part of the community in Lichty hall.

Photo: Dr. Aaron Best

While it has many similarities to the other living communities on campus, it also possesses several key factors that make it stand out from the rest. Lichty is one of the smallest halls on campus, giving you the unique opportunity to have a real and meaningful relationship with almost everyone in your dorm, but also large enough to offer a great deal of variety in the kinds of people you will meet. The size of the hall encourages residents to build a tight-knit community where everyone has a sense of belonging and purpose. Lichty is also a part of the south-side residential community, which means there are three other halls right next-door if you ever feel that your social circle is too small. The ‘living’ part of the ‘living-learning’ community transitions perfectly into the learning portion.

One of my favorite things about living in Lichty was the fact that there was always someone in the common areas either studying or having fun (often a mixture of the two). Whether cramming for a test or simply trying to complete a last minute homework assignment, there was always someone there who was willing and able to help. This kind of support network helps you to focus yourself and even share your knowledge with others when they are in need. If any part of this community interests you, I wholeheartedly encourage you to sign-up and become part of a Day1 research program.

Author: Chris Belica

Day1 Watershed featured in News From Hope College

Hands-On Learning from Day1 and Beyond

As Eleda Plouch, a freshman from Greenfield, Indiana, prepared for her first semester of college last summer, various thoughts raced through her mind. Would she enjoy her classes? How would she deal with the stress of schoolwork?

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Phun with Phriends: Why I Love the Phage Day1 Program

When asked about my favorite class this year, my answer has been, without fail, the Phage Day 1 Lab.  While not everyone shares my enthusiasm for mixing viruses with bacteria and growing them on Petri dishes (it does sound a little odd, if you think about it), I can honestly say that joining the Phage Day 1 program was one of the best decisions I made coming into college.  This lab provides a unique opportunity for hands-on, exploratory learning in a schedule otherwise filled with introductory, largely memorization-based classes.  Don’t get me wrong – I love learning about biology in any setting, including lecture.  However, there is something special about knowing that the work I do in lab is not a mere learning exercise, but directly contributes to a growing body of cutting-edge scientific research.  It’s a small contribution, but I take some pride in knowing that the phage I isolated, studied, and yes, came to love over the first semester is stored in a database with my name beside it.

The aspect I enjoy most about Phage lab is the hands-on approach to learning laboratory procedures.  We read about techniques, talk them through with our professor, and then do them.  It was great to see my classmates’ and my growth over the first semester as we developed from unsure, somewhat clumsy amateurs asking questions every five seconds to confident budding scientists who know how to design our own experiments and think critically about solving potential issues.  As a Biology major hoping to enter the field of medical research, this course has given me both practical experience and confidence in carrying out laboratory procedures.  It also provides a strong base from which to apply for future research experiences at Hope and beyond.

Photo provided by Dr. Joseph Stukey

The final thing that makes me love Phage lab is the fact that it is just so much fun.  I have become friends with many of the people in my class, where the small size and common purpose create a sense of unique comradery.  This is the class where I can share nerdy jokes and know they will be appreciated, where I can ask a peer a complicated question about biology and know they will understand it, and where I and my friends can sing along to Disney songs while performing an experiment (one of my fondest memories from lab).  The Phage Day 1 program allows me to further my knowledge of biology in a unique and sincerely enjoyable way.  It has become one of the defining aspects of why I love Hope.

Author: Alicia Bostwick